WASHINGTON – Speaking before the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed the strong bond between Israel and the US, while also issuing strong words of warning about a nuclear Iran.
"It is especially great to be in America's capital now that it's acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Thank you, President Trump, for that historic decision," the prime minister said to a round of applause from the AIPAC audience.
He also praised the Trump administration for reinforcing that move with the relocation of America's embassy.
"Thank you for announcing another decision – to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this Independence Day," Netanyahu said, drawing more applause.
Netanyahu made it clear that the US was not the only country with which Israel had strong ties. He went on to tout the Jewish state's flourishing diplomatic relations with its neighbors in the Middle East and beyond – 160 countries to be exact.
"Pretty soon the countries that don't have relations with Israel – they're going to be isolated," Netanyahu said.
Shifting to a more concerning note, the Israeli leader warned of a clear and present danger facing the world: the threat of a nuclear Iran.
"Darkness is descending on our region," Netanyahu warned, naming "radical tyranny" as the force behind Tehran's quest to build an "aggressive empire" that includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and more – all in a quest to seek Israel's destruction.
He condemned President Obama's 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and said Iran its proxies are looking for ways to attack Israel.
"Last week we read in the Book of Esther about an earlier Persian attempt to exterminate our people. They failed then. They'll fail now."
"In addition to moving its army, its air force, its navy to Syria to be able to attack Israel from closer hand – it's also seeking to develop, to build precision-guided missile factories in Syria, Lebanon against Israel. I will not let that happen," he vowed, before praising President Donald Trump for his firm stance against a nuclear Iran.
"President Trump has made it clear that his administration will not accept Iran's aggression in the region. He has made clear that he too will never accept a nuclear-armed Iran. That is the right policy. I salute President Trump on this," Netanyahu said.
"And the president has also made it clear that if the fatal flaws of the nuclear deal are not fixed, he will walk away from the deal and restore sanctions," he added. "Israel will be right there by America's side, and let me tell you, so will a hundred countries in the region."
The prime minister concluded by reminding those present that the "wellspring" of the US and Israel's enduring friendship was their shared values, undergirded by a strong faith in God.
"They come from a certain book – a great book, a good book. It's called the Bible," Netanyahu told the audience. "It says that all of us are created in the image of God."
"These values are an inseparable part of America's story," he continued. "They're an inseparable part of Israel's story. And today we're writing a new chapter of our common story – a story of freedom, of justice, of peace, of hope."
"And it's because we're inspired by the same ideas because we're animated by the same values that America and Israel have forged, an eternal bond that can never ever be broken," he said.
Netanyahu also praised some recent pro-Israel legislation from the US Congress.
"Israel hopes that the passage of the Taylor Force Act makes clear to President Abbas that America has zero tolerance for terrorists," he said.
That call for congressional support was also clear at AIPAC, with congressmen from both sides of the aisle vowing support of the Jewish state.
"Security of the US is strong when our bond with Israel is strong," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ.
While there may be bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, says it's a different story in the classroom.
"I am deeply concerned about what is happening in many college campuses and anti-Semitism," Rubio said.
Still, roughly 3,600 college students filled the seats at AIPAC over the last few days and that's exactly what organizers want to see – a solid foundation built on a generation dedicated to US-Israel relations.
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